When ignorance is bliss


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Jan 22, 2006
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When ignorance is bliss

Bolts' Edwards content to play role of victim
By Jim Trotter
June 4, 2006

Donnie Edwards is a bright man who wants people to believe he's ignorant.

Since being placed on the trading block in early April, he repeatedly has shrugged his shoulders when asked about the Chargers' desire to deal him. He even claimed to be hurt and confused by the situation during a recent radio interview.

Hurt, we can give him. Potential rejection is never easy, whether it's a date for the prom, an offer on a new house or a chance to finish your playing career with the team you grew up idolizing.

But confused? No way. Edwards has a degree in political science and is working toward a master's in education. If he can't make out what's going on, UCLA should demand he return his diploma and the NCAA should investigate how he received one in the first place.

Edwards is on the trading block because he has lost the respect of some teammates and many in the front office with his constant complaints about being underpaid and underappreciated. He's available to other clubs because he's in the final year of a five-year, $18.75 million contract and the Chargers have no intention of meeting his asking price next offseason, when he'll be a 34-year-old free agent.

That any of this would come as a surprise to Edwards is, well, surprising. He's entering his 11th season, so he knows how the game works. If a player is no longer in a team's plans, the team generally seeks to get something for the player now rather than nothing for him later. Edwards observed this several years ago with Junior Seau, who remains a much more decorated and infinitely more beloved player than Edwards.

Of course, it didn't have to come to this. Edwards easily could have played out the contract he signed after leaving Kansas City, then looked to get a better deal as a free agent. Instead, he began coming to the team for more money after only two seasons, first in 2004, then in 2005 and, finally, this offseason. Each time he was rebuffed his grousing grew louder. The only thing that got a bigger rise out of him was his failure to earn a starting spot in the Pro Bowl.

Look, let's be clear on this: Edwards hasn't deserved a Pro Bowl berth since he arrived in San Diego in 2002, based on the time of the voting and the performance of the players. He made his only appearance in 2005 after two other linebackers withdrew because of injuries, but that spot should have gone to teammate Steve Foley, who deserved it then and still does now.

Edwards supporters will point to how he has recorded 100-plus tackles in each of his four seasons. But a closer look, done by Union-Tribune Chargers beat writer Kevin Acee, reveals that 56 percent of his tackles came 4 or more yards past the line of scrimmage last season. And 24 percent of those occurred after gains of 6 or more yards.

Again, this is not to bash Edwards, but he has to accept responsibility for his role in the situation. He can't go around presenting himself as a great player when opposing coaches and scouts rate him as only the third-best linebacker on his team, behind Shawne Merriman and Foley.

He can't keep nodding and smiling when unknowing outsiders call him a locker-room leader and the heart and soul of the defense, because he's neither. He has been voted team Defensive Player of the Year only once since coming to town, and that was during a 4-12 season in which someone had to receive it.

I tried reaching Edwards for comment, but he didn't return my calls. Can't say that it came as a surprise. He has been painfully thin-skinned of late, telling one reporter he was done speaking to him after the reporter wrote an article that was balanced (i.e., not flattering) about Edwards' play on the field and standing in the locker room.

That's not to say he's been totally silent. During his recent radio interview, he said, among other things, that he's upset he had to hear about being on the trading block from someone outside the organization, and he wishes the team would allow his agent to talk trade with other clubs.

Asked about both statements, General Manager A.J. Smith said Edwards' agent was notified the moment Edwards was placed on the trading block, just as Seau's agent was notified the moment he was made available to other teams. Smith also said Edwards' agent, Tom Condon, is free to talk with any team, although the Chargers must agree to the compensation.

“It has become crystal clear to me that Donnie is very unhappy with his contract and has been for a few years,” Smith said. “We have always appreciated Donnie Edwards' playing ability, and we believe he is well-compensated; however, because of his unhappiness we will do everything possible to find him a new team – a team that will appreciate him the way he would like and will compensate him with an amount that will make him very happy and content.”

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